How do we safely move freight in Lower Macungie/Greater Lehigh Valley?

For better or worse we’re now in the business of moving freight in Lower Macungie Twp. Much of our former agriculture land (which was at one time very high ROI, low impact and great for property values) is now or about to become warehouses. (very low ROI and extremely high impact terrible neighbors)

Moving freight is now a huge part of our local and regional economy. Because of that, local governments have to address the issue.

How do we achieve balance between the needs to move freight and safety/quality of life?

How do we achieve balance between the needs to move freight and safety/quality of life?

In Upper Macungie distribution warehouses probably always made sense due to a location directly adjacent to I-78 with direct highway access to all points N, S, E & W. In Upper Macungie they have the ability to separate the trucks from residential portion of the township. Here in Lower Macungie we are much further from interchanges. Therefore, trucks coming in and out of the township to and from the warehouses are frequently ending up on local residential roads. Day and night trucks rumble through Macungie and Alburtis intermingling with pedestrians and residential neighborhoods. In Lower Macungie we see them on local roads such as East Texas Rd, Spring Creek Rd, Sauerkraut Ln, Willow Ln ect.

In the next 10 years the amount of warehouses will double. The biggest of these mega warehouses are forecasted to generate up to 40 trucks an hour 7 days a week and 24 hours a day. The problem will only get worse.

We need answers. Moving forward how do we balance the needs of a safe, livable community with the need to efficiently move freight? I’m not sure there is a blueprint. Are there any other examples of areas that have gone this far overboard with distribution warehouses? 

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Market solutions to land use issues – Highway Congestion

I believe in market-based, fiscally conservative solutions to land use and transportation challenges faced by the nation.

These issues are highlighted locally. The proposal to reconstruct and widen Route 22 from four to six lanes between 15th & Airport Rd. will cost about $175 million dollars. Huge amount of money. We’re all paying for it in the form of the gas tax passed by the PA legislature.

Most acknowledge Rt. 22 has reached critical mass (in terms of convenience). The issue is how we address it. So on the horizon is a widening project with no accountability for results with a high likelihood that in 10 years the 6 shiny new lanes will again be gridlocked. It’s happens enough with widening projects all around the nation. Agency throws money at a highway but it rarely  fixes the underlying issues. In enough cases to raise alarm bells the new lanes simply fill up. So why do we repeat the same mistakes?

Big picture the vicious circle is astronomically beyond our ability to pay for. The system is unsustainable. This is evidenced by the crisis level of infrastructure issues in the United States. Here in PA most believe the gas tax increase won’t fix the underlying issues. It’s another bandaid.

So what’s an alternative? Is there a market based-conservative approach? I believe there is and a model is out there.

In Virginia through a public/private partnership a private company helped fund the installation of express lanes on I-495. The company Transurban financed, designed and built the project with review and oversight from VDOT. The company operates and maintains the Express Lanes.

Widening projects happen because people complain about congestion. Since highways are a public good and should be available to everyone it’s important we don’t create barriers. A dedicated express lane doesn’t. It just creates a market for convenience. Those who want to pay for convenience pay for it. Those that don’t, aren’t forced to.

Here Jim Bacon talks about the 495 express lane project in Virginia. The program has so far seen lower then expected revenue.  Jim attributes it to reduced traffic overall and the recession. Personally I’m ok with that, since the alternative would have been traditional funding mechanisms. (aka taxpayers). Based on what I’ve read this will eventually be a profitable venture for Transurban. Alot of the issues were timing.  And again, if it never does become profitable then the risk was all on them not taxpayers. That’s what the market is all about.

The express-lanes concept is appealing for several reasons. First, the private sector raised most of the money to pay for the expansion of Interstate 495 capacity — money the state did not have — and assumed the financial risk should traffic and revenues prove disappointing. – Bacons Rebellion